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Old 24-10-08, 09:50 PM
Mike S James
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Default Hi, wondering if anyone can help!

Hi egg pepole,
My name is Michael, I love this site on egg tempera, as I do the medium itself ! I was looking for some advice, and reading some of the threads, I thought great, may be I could at last find some answers.
This maybe a little off the mark as the question is about oil paints, but about a years ago when I first found your website, I read another artist asking about oil aplication, so I thought well, it's worth a try.
I have been painting with egg temera, plus oils for approx 6-7 years, but never been able to sort out why some glazes are highly patchy.
I have been using a 'traditional format' of rabbit skin size, half chalk ground on canvas, and tempera underpainting for oil glazes.
(my earlier works were underpainted in oil) it doesn't seem to make a difference. when trying to get a flat colour, or a blended blue sky. often oil glazes effectly become patchy and with un-consistent and uneven finish. oiling out, I think is useless. Often multiple glazes will cover this problem, but it all starts becoming a titianic task. I have been trying to cut obsorbancy with a damar diluted resin isolating layer, even with extra rabbit skin glue, do you think casein would be the answer ? I would be deeply gratefull if anyone anyoneone can throw some light on this subject area.
Is it the ground preparation, or the mixing of pigments that creates this patchy effect? Do you think I'm doing anything fundamentally wrong!
(I guess I should've started this in other threaded areas, it's a bit heavy for an intro, ah well, I hope thats ok!)

Last edited by Mike S James; 25-10-08 at 01:08 AM.
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Old 26-10-08, 01:52 PM
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John John is offline
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Mike your frustration you have described is quite common and it looks like you have already pointed out the issues and basically the answers in your post. Yes, getting a good even ground is important and working with your layers of varried paint is important also to your getting more even results.

When it comes to grounds and how they can be made more even and possibly less absorbent I believe comes down to using simple and well trusted methods and ingredients. Examine all parts of your support and grounds - are there any areas that could be simplified and improved? For example the best made semi absorbent ground does you no good if applied to an unevenly absorbent support.

Likewise with your paint, if an area has been built up in oil over egg and it's surface characters is even when a lean overpaint is followed by a fat glaze this has a good chance that it will end up patchy. Again simplify and plan your layers. Dividing your work into underpainting, build-up, and then finishing while keeping track of the quality of the paint, fat or lean, should help. Be careful too if you incorporate solvents (that includes water) and/or mediums.

I'm sure you will find the answers soon, just keep at it.
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Old 28-10-08, 07:55 PM
Mike S James
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Thank you John,

Just another question if you don't mind.
when you mention about sizing the support in a regulated fashion before equal application of geso ground material,
I normally give 2 coats of rabbit skin glue.
is there any further advice upon this foundation layer that you could give. should I give more, or are there any other tricks/rules/formulas here that I should really be paying attention to.
it may seem that it is where my problems may stem from.
what do you think?
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Old 29-10-08, 04:45 PM
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John John is offline
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Mike, I don't know the strength of RSG size you are using though generally one coat will size the support surface where a second coat can too often become a layer which may not be the best thing to have before a ground layer. The best qualities of a size comes with a good drying time of about 5 days. Many artists cheat this time to one day or less - for a pure ET ground this is not as big an issue as when you are trying to set up your support and ground for an oil or egg and oil technique.

What type of support are you using? The denser and more uniform the material of your support the better. For example a high end smooth both sides hardboard like the old Duron product will give far better results then a standard lightweight Masonite board found at most lumber yards.

I would believe in your choice of technique you would find a fatter oil emulsion ground will provide less absorbency. Try different bodied linseed oils or a combination. Also test out different whiting materials and any added whites as they will also alter how subsequent layers will react.
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Old 29-10-08, 06:28 PM
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jpohl jpohl is offline
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John has far more expertise and experience in this area than me.. but I've been giving this some thought after just reading Koo Shadlers book.

I was surprised to find out she glazed in oil over egg tempera. She writes about how the flemish/northern artist who did this had in some ways the best of both worlds. She writes about using a brush or sponge to lay down a layer of pure egg yolk medium on top of the egg tempera as the icon artists do, especially if the shine is uneven after burnishing. She also often uses a retouching varnish before using oil, and discusses the various options, but has found the best results with Liquin.

I was surprised by this as it would be like coming full circle for me. It working with the fast drying and many layers of liquin that made me think that my paintings wanted to be egg tempera. A good friend (who also has one of the same painting awards as John ) said he didn't like liquin because he found it too "plastic" for his tastes.. but perhaps used sparingly over egg tempera this would be less of an issue. If it's good enough for Koo, it should be good enough for me.

The benefit of retouch varnish being you don't have to wait a year for a painting to cure... a good thing if you are trying to make a deadline for exhibition. If i end up up with an uneven sheen after burnishing, I'm trying to decide whether liquin is something I would like to consider, or if I should opt for an egg wash and/or Renaissance wax to deepen shadows and even sheen.

Perhaps the liquin might not only set the stage for oil, but protect the work better. (If an artist has to ship their work any distance that might be a consideration. I don't like the thoughts of shipping glass over work which could break and scratch.) It will likely be a couple of years before I can set up a second studio for oil work (and away from little lungs), but I'm seeing this as an opportunity to develop my skills in egg tempera and casein, before I think about oil again... as tempting as it is.

One thing to remember: avoid zinc white with oil or liquin (if this is news as it was to me, check out the recent thread on white pigment, with zinc white also being present in some lead and titanium whites), but it will be safe thinly used with casein or egg tempera underpainting.

Not sure if this is of any help, and hope I understood your question correctly.. especially as you have more practical experience in this matter.

all the best, jp

Last edited by jpohl; 29-10-08 at 06:34 PM.
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Old 29-10-08, 11:58 PM
Mike S James
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thankyou for your suggestions,
It may help if I can give a little more technical info, the RSG solution strength is 70:1,000, which i have taken from the max doerner book, the materials of the artist, and their use in painting. I apply this to a thick grade cotton canvas. (it's been a while since I've made any, because last time I made about 14 canvases and I'm still working on some of the paintings).
for the ground I have used 1part RSG, 1pt chalk whiting, 1pt zinc white, with a quater measure of stand oil.
I've tried to make this less obsorbant with a damar resin coat, diluted(cant remember ratio)
I am embarking on a new project due to MA studies and I am hoping to iron out some of the past problems. I've been thinking about your various points, I'm not sure about the liquin, and being a traditionalist at heart, I'm not too trusting in that solution and want to stick to basic traditional ingredients. I did start to think about the adding of pigment to the gesso might cause extra problems. Do you know if lead white would be much better than the zinc, or perhaps no pigment at all.
I guess you can always paint a white layer on top of the gesso before the basic coats are applied. I have also read about the casein being used for an isolating coat to make the ground less obsorbant, have you tried this technique, what do you think ?
also thinking about it, it is usually the blue pigments that seem to go patchy more than the any other, not sure what the reason is, do you think it could be the zinc white in the gesso, or do you think it could be the white that I'm using to blend with the blue pigment itself (usuallt lead or zinc).(sorry if I'm being a headache over this) What I'm after is really a fail safe construct that will not lead to enless coats and glazes, especially when uder a deadline.
Maybe its best to stick to egg emulsions, but I'm sure if I'm not getting the foundation right, I'm just getting myself into troubles anyway. If theres any advice, be truly grateful

Last edited by Mike S James; 30-10-08 at 12:10 AM.
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Old 08-11-08, 03:37 PM
Alessandra Kelley Alessandra Kelley is offline
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What blues are you using? I ask because ultramarine blue is naturally matte when it dries, and so might have a greater tendency to go patchy than other blue pigments.

I wonder if the problem might be related to relative evenness of layers. Chalk gesso is tremendously absorbent -- I had a lot of trouble with oil sinking in in a pure oil painting I did on one once. It's important that any sealing coat is very even. And possibly the egg tempera underpainting needs to be very even across the board as well. I know different thicknesses of tempera can behave in differently absorbent fashion, which is not a problem for a pure, unvarnished tempera painting, but could be if you plan to put anything over it.

How thorough is your tempera underpainting? I mean, is it more like a drawing, a toned crosshatching over the gesso, or is it a full, smooth painted layer of color over the whole board?
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